Known as the Land of Fire and Ice, Iceland is defined by its striking and dramatic landscape of hot springs, waterfalls, glaciers and volcanoes.
If visiting this beautiful island nation isn’t high up on your travel list yet, here are ten reasons that’ll leave you falling head over heels with Iceland.
[caption id="attachment_2016" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Photo courtesy of Omar Smith[/caption]
Located in Southern Iceland and part of the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, the Landmannalaugar Mountains is one the country’s hidden treasures. Famous for its colourful rhyolite mountains, it’s regularly listed as one of the top hiking trails in the world.
Natural geothermal springs set against the magical backdrop of the Landmannalaugar highlands are another draw for visitors who wish to take a dip in these rejuvenating hot springs.
The Golden Circle
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This 300-km circular route starting in the capital of Iceland, Reyjkavik, is perhaps one of the most epic road trips on Earth. The loop runs round the country’s Southern region and passes through some of the most amazing landscapes you’ll encounter in your lifetime.
Major sights include the Waterfall Gullfoss, the Strokkur geyser which shoots jets of water every 10 minutes, and the Kerið, a volcanic crater.
[caption id="attachment_2021" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Thrihnukagigur volcano. Photo courtesy of Darren Mercer[/caption]
Another notable feature of Icelandic landscape is its 130 volcanoes, both active and inactive, which offer a variety of activities for visitors.
Just a 30-minute drive from Reykjavik is the dormant Thrihnukagigur volcano, where tourists can descend 120m to the bottom via an open cable lift for a dramatic view of multi-hued volcanic rocks.
The Blue Lagoon
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One of the National Geographic’s “25 Wonders of the World”, the Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa famous for its healing powers using active ingredients such as silica, minerals and algae. Accounts of the Blue Lagoon’s restorative properties have spread so extensively that it is one of Iceland’s top attractions today.
Currently, the Lagoon operates its own R&D facility to help find cures for other skin ailments using mineral-rich water.
[caption id="attachment_2028" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Photo courtesy of Moyan Brenn[/caption]
Many myths and legends ranging from spirit fires to impending war signals have surrounded the Northern Lights – also known as the aurora borealis – for ages. Today, this mystical miracle of nature is high on many a bucket lists of travellers around the world.
To catch a glimpse of this spectacular phenomenon, visit from September to mid-April on cold nights with dark skies. The Icelandic Met Office provides daily aurora forecasts for visitors to best plan their night excursions.
[caption id="attachment_2031" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Photo courtesy of Bernt Rostad[/caption]
Though its home to just 120,000 inhabitants, Reykjavik is a strong cultural centre for music, nightlife and fashion, and a city worth exploring in its own right. The city hosts several major events such as the annual Reykjavik Fashion Festival and numerous music festivals, the biggest being the Iceland Airwaves Music Festival.
For the foodie, the Thorrablot, traditionally a sacrificial midwinter festival in pagan Iceland, brings locals together to eat, drink and be merry. Here’s the catch: dishes such as rotten shark’s meat, sheep’s blood and ram’s testicles make up this festive menu.
Glacier and Ice Cave Trekking
[caption id="attachment_2029" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Photo courtesy of Nick[/caption]
About 10% of Iceland is covered by glaciers. To give a sense of its magnitude, this is the equivalent of twenty years of rainfall for the entire country.
What’s unique about glaciers is their ability to move, which over time creates beautiful ice caves, gorges and crevasses. These glaciers spread across vast, almost infinite expanses, and is a great opportunity to ignite your sense of adventure in an otherworldly, ethereal environment.
[caption id="attachment_2030" align="aligncenter" width="1190"] Photo courtesy of Moyan Brenn[/caption]
Considered the world’s purest breed of horses, the Icelandic horse is as unique as Iceland itself. They are generally smaller than horses – or what many would consider pony-sized – but are highly versatile with tremendous stamina. They are known to be patient, friendly and have a special affinity with people.
As the trading of horses in Iceland is forbidden, the horses’ unique characteristics can be preserved, which also means that once a horse leaves the island it can never return.
Diving in Silfra
[caption id="attachment_2019" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Photo courtesy of Gunnar Birgisson Powers[/caption]
With water visibility exceeding 100m, Silfra is one of the world’s top diving spots. Its pristine waters offer a spectacular experience for divers or snorkelers, presenting beautiful, multi-coloured views of the underwater landscape as light rays pass through the depths and refracts onto lava rock.
Silfra also straddles the fissure between the Eurasian and American tectonic plates, meaning divers can even touch two different tectonic plates at once – mindboggling!
Lying at the juncture of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans, Iceland is one of the best places in the world to whale-watch. May to September is optimal for catching these incredible creatures in their natural environment, with chances of spotting one as high as 98% during this period.
Tours are easily accessible from operators located at Reykjavik harbour and are available year-round. For some of the best whale-watching trips though, head to the Northern coast of Husavik where you’ll more likely be able to catch larger-than-life humpback whales.
Inspired to embark on an Icelandic adventure yet? Find your ideal hotel to kick start your amazing journey.